Posted on February 27, 2014 http://jmmillward.wordpress.com While it was the Sydney Roosters who took the spoils by claiming the 2013 NRL title in Trent Robinson’s first season at the club, it is worth reflecting on the achievement of runners-up Manly who reached a remarkable fourth grand final in seven years. With the Sea Eagles achieving this feat in the era of the salary cap, losing stacks of representative players along the way (as well as a pretty handy coach), could it be suggested that their achievement is on par with that of Parramatta and the Bulldogs who ruled the 1980s with four premierships each? Unlike the 80’s when ten premierships were shared between only four clubs, the modern day salary cap has ensured that no team has won back-to-back titles for 20 years. During that time dynasties have been replaced by periods of dominance lasting generally no longer than a couple of years. The Roosters made three consecutive grand finals between 2002-04 but the following year could not even make the top eight. Towards the end of the decade the Dragons won consecutive minor premierships, converting the second of those into the big prize but faded soon after. However Manly haven’t missed out on the finals for nine years and since 2006 they’ve finished in the top five every year bar 2010. Their dominance during that period is unrivalled. Discounting the Melbourne Storm who benefitted from salary cap breaches up to 2010 (and have arguably continued to benefit), Manly’s win percentage of 65% (regular season only) is well clear of their next closest rival Brisbane at 54%. The gap between first and second is by far the greatest with the majority of positions separated by less than 1%. Another indicator of Manly’s dominance over the past eight seasons is their points differential of +1,220 which is more than two-and-a-half times greater than St-George Illawarra who sit second in that particular area, and more than four times ahead of the Broncos in third. Moreover Manly have been able to maintain this dominance despite having to shed a mass of quality players. Since the end of 2006 the Eagles have waved goodbye to an incredible 17 representative players, including Dally M Medallist Matt Orford, club legend Steve Menzies, exciting youngster Will Hopoate and 2013 grand final winner Jared Waerea-Hargreaves. They also had to deal with the acrimonious departure of star coach Des Hasler to the Bulldogs, while at the very top the boardroom has been openly at war throughout virtually this entire period. 2013 was somewhat symbolic of Manly’s run over the past eight years, defying the odds to overcome boundless challenges. There was the continued quarrelling at board level with one director granted an AVO against another on the eve of the finals. There were the regular injuries to key players which saw them lose their most potent weapon for a third of the season and arrive at the big dance without three first-choice prop forwards. There were the bruising encounters in the first three weeks of the finals which were meant to knock the stuffing out of them, especially with star players Jamie Lyon and Anthony Watmough operating below 100%. And yet this indomitable club fought its way to within agonisingly close reach of another premiership. While Manly may not have been crowned champions of 2013, they further cemented a modern-day dynasty that you could argue is every bit as impressive and dominant as those of the Bulldogs and the Eels in the 80’s.